On the surface, advisors being empathetic to clients’ needs and deploying technology to improve client experiences and practice efficiencies are not related. These topics aren’t competing interests, but there appears to be a lack of synergies between the two.
There is, however, one crucial similarity shared by empathy and technology. Both can go a long way toward enhancing client outcomes. As such, advisors should consider avenues for improving their soft skills as well as better harnessing technology. Good news: Accomplishing these objectives isn’t taxing, but the rewards, both emotional and financial, could be significant.
Regarding empathy and technology, these aren’t just talking points from consultants, providers or wire houses. There’s a plethora of survey and studies – too numerous to mention here – confirming that clients want better interpersonal connections with advisors and they want to see practices at least up with the times, if not ahead of the times, when it comes to technology.
Tech Talk for Advisors
There are myriad ways in which advisors can better leverage technology and the ideas span everything from alleviating back-office burdens to social media marketing and much more. Advisors can also get ideas from their counterparts.
“We’ve also added client-facing components that make the client experience better. Our appointment scheduling software streamlines the process — clients have real-time access to our calendars, so they can pick a time that works for them,” said Jaime Quiros of FBB Capital Partners in an interview with State Street Global Advisors’ (SSGA) Sue Thompson. “It sounds so simple but avoiding back-and-forth phone calls and emails just to schedule a meeting is a major timesaver. And then modern video conferencing makes the actual conversation much more personal and dynamic.”
Improved technology can also be used in the portfolio management process, which is appealing to many advisors, particularly when considering that doesn’t mean advisors lose control of the securities selection process.
“In terms of portfolio management, our systems allow clients to access their portfolios from a top-down perspective, so they can find answers to many questions as they arise. Naturally, the system’s convenience is appreciated by the client, but it also frees up the portfolio manager to do their job more efficiently,” adds Quiros.
Evaluating Empathy and Emotions
I often note in this space that advisors aren’t psychologists or therapists, but there are elements of those professions in managing peoples’ money. That’s especially true when considering an advisor is often one of the first professionals a person meets with following a life-changing event, such as birth of a child, divorce, job change or death of a spouse.
Combine those events with the emotions that can be caused by turbulent financial markets, and it’s obvious advisors need to have some level of empathy and sensitivity to navigate clients through life’s curveballs. Quiros managed some valuable ideas to SSGA’s Thompson.
“Managing emotions starts with having down-to-earth conversations with clients — listening to their fears, concerns, and whatever else is running through their minds to understand why they’re apprehensive,” noted the advisor. “The client needs to express and articulate their emotions. Then it’s up to us to empathize and convey our understanding, before we can transition to a rational discussion about what’s happening and our plan. Whether it’s just noise or something that is truly rattling the markets, we explain how we’ve positioned their portfolio to handle the situation. In essence, we use logic to douse the emotional flames and reestablish peace of mind.”